Yelling at a stubborn jar never seems to have the effect you want it to, but breaking out a sledge hammer is probably not the best idea either. Before you upset your jam with foul language, or smash the container into oblivion, you may want to try some of the easy methods listed below to get that lid off without any sweat or swearing necessary. We’ve all encountered a stuck lid at one time or another, and some can be extremely difficult to remove. In most cases it’s just the seal that is preventing you from opening the jar, but in other cases, sticky or gooey substances may be gluing it shut. It doesn’t matter if you are a male or a female, weak or strong, at some point you will encounter a lid that just won’t budge. If you have small hands, strength problems, or arthritis the situation will be more frequent, but everyone can benefit from a fool-proof method to loosen jar lids that don’t want to turn.
In most cases, the majority of us can apply minimal pressure to twist the top off any glass or plastic jar, but when you don’t hear that “pop”, and the lid won’t turn, it’s time to resort to one of the tricks and techniques below. A strong vacuum seal keeps food inside the jar fresh, but it can also prevent you from getting at it when you’re hungry. Once the seal is broken, you’ll hear a popping noise, and the top will twist off easily. If the seal isn’t the problem, then the lid may just be on too tight, and in that case, a little extra muscle may get it to turn. If you can rule out the seal and over-tightening, then you can be pretty sure that food residue is preventing you from getting inside, especially if it’s an already-opened container. Lucky for you, we have compiled the top ten tips for loosening lids, so continue reading to easily remove any lid from any jar.
1. Bang It On The Counter
This technique employs brute force to try to pop the seal. The impact should be enough to break the vaccuum, and cause the lid to turn easily. Some caution should be used to avoid damage to counters or broken containers.
- For this technique, lay out a towel on the counter for protection, and to make the surface a little bit softer.
- Turn your jar upside-down and bang it flat on the counter, lid first.
- When you pound down with enough force, it should release the seal.
- Once the seal has been broken, turn the jar over and twist the lid off with ease.
- NOTE: Using enough force is essential, but using too much will result in trouble. Bang down too hard and you’ll be cleaning up a mess and picking glass shards out of your food.
2. Use Hot Water
When submerged or held under running water, the lid will expand temporarily to break the seal. This is not the fastest method, but it also doesn’t require extra muscle or any amount of pounding. After enough time has passed, you should hear the lid “pop” loose to let you know it can be twisted off without effort. Submerging in a small dish or bowl works well, but you can also hold under the faucet. Take caution to use water that is hot enough to do the job, but not so hot that you risk injury.
- To apply hot water with a faucet, turn water on, and set to the correct temp.
- Hold the jar at an angle so the water is able to touch the underside of the top where the threading meets the lid.
- Hold under running water at an angle, and turn to expose all areas.
- To speed the process, tap the outer rim with the back side of a butter knife at the same time.
- To submerge in water, heat until almost boiling, then place water into a shallow bowl.
- Fill bowl so that only the lid will submerge.
- Place the jar in upside-down.
- Let it sit until the seal pops.
- Once the seal has been broken with either technique, grab the lid and turn it easily to remove it.
3. Pry It Loose
If you use the pointy end of a bottle opener, the handle of a spoon or something similar, you may be able to poke and pry the seal away. Some people use a knife when attempting this technique, but that seems overly dangerous. Any tool that is slim enough to fit under the rim of the lid should do the trick.
- Tilt your jar so you have access to the underside of the lid.
- Slip your tool into the gap between the lid and the jar.
- Either pry upwards, or twist to slightly expand the lid.
- Move positions and repeat until you hear it pop loose.
- Once you have applied enough force, in enough positions, the seal will break, and the lid will twist without effort.
- NOTE: Too much force could break the jar, and the wrong tool may lead to injury. This technique may be too rough for plastic, but glass jars with metal lids are the perfect candidate.
4. Use Something Rubbery
A layer of rubber can provide just enough extra grip to allow you to apply the force necessary to remove a stuck lid. Rubber gloves are a great option when trying this method, but you could also use shelf liner, rubber bands, inner tube and other stuff that’s similar. You want to apply a rubber layer to the lid itself, or to your hands in order to improve traction, and prevent slipping. You will still need a bit of muscle to do the turning and grab on tight enough, but for many people, a simple layer of rubber will allow them to open almost any lid.
- When using rubber gloves, just slip them on. Use on both hands so you have a good grip with both hands for increased leverage.
- To try rubber bands, select some that are as wide as possible. Stretch them around the lid, and secure them in place. Use enough to cover the majority of the rim. Add another layer lower to give yourself a secure place to hold on with your other hand.
- Scraps of inner tube or sheets of shelf liner can be used as is, just grab in your hand, and then use to grip the jar.
- Once you have your rubbery stuff in place, grab with both hands and twist. The rubber will help you apply force without slipping.
- Give it a good twist to pop loose the seal, and then continue turning to remove the top.
5. Apply Direct Heat
As previously discussed, heat can lead to temporary expansion that will break the vacuum. Using water as mentioned above is the safest way to heat a lid, but you could also try a more direct way of heating as a last resort. You probably want to avoid this method if your jar is plastic, and fire is dangerous, so make sure to proceed with extreme caution. A blow dryer works well when trying this technique, but you could also use a burner on your stove. Make sure to avoid direct contact with any flame or heating element, and realize that the heat could melt or damage the food inside.
- Use a hair dryer on a high hot setting, or hold over a stove burner.
- Move the heat source or rotate the jar to ensure even coverage, but also to make sure no area gets heated too much.
- You want to heat the underside of the lid where it meets the jar, and you want to do so as evenly as possible.
- Once the lid expands, the seal will pop and allow you to open the jar.
- NOTE: glass and metal conduct heat, so prolonged exposure could result in damage to the contents, or injury to you. Do not heat one area too long, and avoid touching heated areas with bare hands. Do not try with a plastic lid because it will melt and become even more stuck.
6. Beat It With A butter Knife
This method is a favorite of many because it seems to work pretty well, and does not require extra force or dangerous techniques. You can get the same effect if you bang the lid at and angle against something hard, but using a butter knife is safer and easier in most cases. When you pound like a drum around the circumference of the top edge, you will break the seal so that the lid will no longer be stuck in place.
- To use this method, grab a butter knife and hold it by the blade so that the fat side is pointing up.
- Hold the jar in your other hand, and give the top edge a few taps.
- Rotate and tap again, then rotate and tap again.
- Use a decent amount of force, but don’t pound so hard that you risk breaking the jar, or denting the lid.
- Once you tap hard enough and in enough spots, the seal will be broken.
- Grab the lid with your hand and twist off with ease.
7. Slap The Base
A quick spanking will often be enough to make any jar act right. When you pound on the bottom of a jar with the right force, you can easily pop the seal to get inside without trouble. This technique is similar to the counter top method, but in this case you are slapping the back side instead of dropping it on its head.
- Take the jar in your non-dominant hand and hold on tight.
- Take your dominant hand with an open palm and give the bottom of the jar a nice deliberate beating with the heel of your hand.
- Repeat and slap several times if necessary.
- Once you dole out enough corporal punishment, the jar should fall in line and open as ordered.
8. Use a Damp Towel
Not quite as good as rubber at providing gription, a wet towel can work in a pinch. When dampened, you can wrap it around the lid to prevent slipping and allow you to apply the force necessary to loosen the lid.
- Take any dish towel or washcloth and wet under the faucet.
- Wring out until no longer dripping, then use in your hand to grip the lid.
- Apply pressure and twist off.
9. Un-Sticky It
If none of the methods above worked, and your jar is not fresh from the store, it may just be stuck due to food gumming up the works. When sticky, gooey or crusty stuff is allowed onto the threading, it can glue a lid in place once it’s screwed back on. No amount of seal breaking attempts will budge a lid like this because it’s the food holding it in place. Once you soften or remove this food, the lid should twist off like normal. Once you get it off, clean the exterior of the jar, and the interior of the lid to prevent it from happening again.
- To attempt to soften or remove food, soak in a shallow bath, or hold under running water.
- Allow to soak until softened.
- If necessary, use a tool to trace the circumference of the lid on the bottom to pick and scrape out anything possible.
- Once food has been softened or removed as much as possible, use something grippy to help you twist the lid off.
10. Buy Something
If all else fails, or if you just don’t want to waste your time with techniques that may or may not work, try getting a tool made for this task specifically. A high quality jar opener is a nice addition to any kitchen, but for those with arthritis and other issues, they can be invaluable. Instead of trying 3 or 4 different techniques on each lid that gives you trouble, you could go straight to the drawer and finish the job in seconds. A jar opener is the perfect backup for tough guys that never need them, and also the perfect everyday tool for other folks that do.
When you improve your grip, and increase the force applied at the same time, no lid will be any match for you. You won’t need hardly any strength or gripping power because the tool will handle that for you, and you won’t have to worry about whether or not it will work, because it will. When searching for the perfect tool, you’ll have lots of options available to you, but actual performance will vary widely. The two listed below are a couple of the best options available, and we have tested them for you so you can be sure that either option will get the job done easily, and last for several years of service.
Beyond a good jar opener, you could also get creative by using stuff from the hardware or auto parts store like one of those adjustable rubber wrenches.
Kuhn Rikon Gripper Jar Opener
Available in a regular and deluxe model, this tool is able to open any jar from 1″ – 3.5″ in diameter. It’s a Swiss designed kitchen gadget with a long handle and three metallic grippers on the underside. A large knob at the top allows you to adjust the size to fit any container you are opening, and once in place, it provides and incredibly secure grip that won’t slip off. Once you have it in place, the long handle allows you to rotate the lid with an increased amount of force, so any seal breaks without effort, and any lid twists off with ease. You can use it on smooth or grooved lids, and it doesn’t matter if the are plastic or metal. The standard version is all plastic, and the deluxe version comes with a stainless steel handle. More Info. 
Easy Twist Jar Opener
This opener is a bit more economical when compared to the Kuhn Rikon option, so it may appeal to folks on a budget. The performance is impressive, although it will be less effective for some users, when compared to the Gripper above. This opener works with any lid up to 4″ in diameter, and it uses a rubberized interior instead of metal to do the gripping. Four different inner rings give you quick and simple adjustment on the fly, but it will require your strength to squeeze it securely in place. Once on the lid, the rubber part will give you a slip-proof grip, and the long handle will give you a comfortable way to twist the lid off while applying more force than you can with your bare hand. This one is also compatible with any lid type or material, so it’s easily adaptable to any stuck lid you are dealing with. More Info. 
Other Tips To Consider
- Temperature plays a role. When cold, the seal will be stronger. Allow refrigerated jars to warm to room temperature, or open lids before you chill the contents.
- If you don’t need to put the lid back on, you can easily puncture the lid to pop the seal. Just stab with a knife through the top. You could still screw the top back on, but it would have no ability to retain freshness.
- If dealing with a sticky food induced stuck lid, try the butter knife method if soaking shows no results. Sometime whacking in the right spot will free up the food and allow the lid to move.
There is no lid you can not open. Only ones that want to give you a hard time. The next time some jar wants to give you trouble, try out a tip from the list above to put it in it’s place. We all have plenty of stuff around the house to attempt a home remedy as explained above, but some would be better of to just get a tool designed for the task. Once you have a technique that works for you, or the right tool on hand, you’ll never worry about removing the top from any food container, and you’ll never have to sweat or swear to get the job done. Don’t scare the kids, or frighten your neighbors by taking a hammer to a jar in your backyard, and stop with the futile yelling because the jar’s not listening. Use one of the best methods available, or try a high quality opener to loosen the lid without effort.